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Connect with Maritime Culture on the Halifax Waterfront

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Splendid views of the Halifax Waterfront can be seen from the water. The Nova Scotia capital is full with fun and fascinating activities. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia)

Halifax is hands down one of the finest cities for walking in the country. Ridiculously tasty donairs, bubbly drinks, baked goods, historical landmarks, and crisp ocean air are just a few things that will delight any visitor ready to leave their worries behind for a few hours to explore Nova Scotia’s charming and energetic capital.

I was staying at the Westin Nova Scotian, a newly renovated hotel within steps of the ocean. The location worked out well because in a city teeming with great opportunities for a relaxing walk, a stroll along the Halifax Waterfront is a marvel.

With the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and Casino Nova Scotia acting as bookends, Halifax Waterfront is a national gem. Perfect for enjoying the outdoors and burning unwanted calories, the nearly four-kilometre (2.6-mile) stretch features museums, galleries, boutique shops, harbour tours, and places to dine that will suit all budgets.

Explore the Story of Canadian Immigration

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The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 provides an in-depth exploration of the people who arrived via Europe in the 20th century. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia)

A good place to begin your journey that is close to Westin Nova Scotian is the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, a national historic site that served as the gateway to Canada for one million immigrants from 1928-71.

Canada wouldn’t be the country it is without immigration and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 aims to inspire and enable Canadians to explore the impact of immigration and the impact it has had on our country. It may come as a surprise that Pier 21 served as the departure point for 368,000 Canadian military personnel during the Second World War and was the point of entry for many war brides who came to Canada from Europe to make this country their home. Perhaps it’s my romantic side, but those are the stories I enjoyed reading about most.

The museum features an arrivals database that provides a schedule of passenger ships calling at Pier 21 during its history. The Scotiabank Family History Centre, which specializes in immigration history and genealogy research, is a fantastic way to learn dig deep into your roots.

“Visiting the museum makes people more curious about their own immigration history,” says Cara MacDonald, manager of reference services. “Seeing a family member’s name on a document ties us to a historical moment and reminds us how we are connected to the larger story of Canada.”

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The Halifax Seaport links visitors with the farmers, artisans, and foods of southern Nova Scotia. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia)

A three-minute walk west from Pier 21 is Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, famous for being the oldest continuously running market in North America.

The Seaport Market is one of my favourite farmers markets because of its proximity to the ocean and the energy that surrounds it. The best advice I can offer is to turn off your phone and meander as there is no shortage of fresh flowers, crafts, interesting people, and delicious bites. Take time to visit That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm and try the Dragon’s Breath Blue, which was named the Best Blue Cheese in the country at the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards.

The market is how we always maintained our connection with the city and with our customers, and that’s why I love Seaport Farmers’ Market,” said Willem van den Hoek, who along with his wife has co-owned That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm and been a fixture at the market for 40 years.

Another delicious treat you will find in the market — or to be more accurate all over the city — is the mouthwatering Halifax donair.

A dripping pita filled with roasted shaved spiced beef served with tomatoes, onions, and a sweet sauce, the donair has been thrilling Nova Scotians since the 1970s. Many fine establishments serve this delicacy but be sure to visit King of Donair or Tony’s Famous Donair, two of Halifax’s original pizza and donair stops.

Taste the Delights of Halifax

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The charming Bicycle Thief serves up gorgeous views of the Halifax waterfront and some of the city’s finest food and wine selections. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia)

After some quality time at the market head for Halifax Waterfront. Walk 13 minutes from the market along the boardwalk and enjoy the establishments at Bishops Landing, including Piece of Cake Fine Bakery & Café and The Bicycle Thief, featuring North American food with an Italian twist. Try the Linguine all’Aragosta with lobster ($27) and Halibut al Cartoccio ($34).

Continue your stroll over to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, located next to HMCS Sackville. The museum is the largest site in the province that collects and interprets various elements of Nova Scotia’s marine history and has information and artifacts on the ill-fated Franklin Expedition and Halifax Explosion of 1917.

I enjoyed “Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax” exhibit, which described life aboard the doomed ocean-liner in detail. Among the heart-wrenching items in the display are the shoes of the “Unknown Child” that were removed from one of the victims of the disaster. In 2007, as a result of extensive DNA testing, the shoes were identified as those of 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England.

Not exactly a feel-good story but the uplifting news is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic isn’t all doom, gloom, lost expeditions, and shipwrecks. You will have a fun time as there are plenty of boats, models, and a gigantic lighthouse bulb that children will love.

Raise a Pint to Beer-making History

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At the Alexander Keith’s Brewery, which was founded in 1820, beer lovers get a taste of history and 21st-century quality brews, too. (Dean Casavechia photo for Tourism Nova Scotia)

By now your legs are probably rubbery and comfortably numb but if you have any juice left in the tank go across the street to Alexander Keith’s Brewery for a tour.

Founded in 1820 by its namesake, the brewery is the oldest in Halifax and one of the oldest in North America. Keith’s IPA is the most popular beer in Halifax and is one of the top three beers sold in Nova Scotia. The brewery offers an award-winning tour ($26.95; $23.95 for seniors) that promises “Nova Scotian good times with songs, stories and a fine variety of ales.”

When the tour is over there are several ways you can spend the rest of your evening. Hang near the shore, hop on a ferry, explore different parts of this marvellous city or just sit back and savour the sunset on a patio. You really can’t go wrong. After a day of walking on the waterfront one thing is certain — you’ll look forward to resting your legs and doing it all over again in the morning.

Note: Vacay.ca is partnering with Tourism Nova Scotia on a series of articles featuring journeys to enjoy in the province in 2020 and 2021. Check our previous articles on road trips across the province, exploring the South Shore, discovering the quaint charms of the Northumberland Shore, new world-class delights on Cape Breton Island, and scintillating winery trips in the Annapolis and Gaspereau valleys.

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Rod has previously worked for Canoe.ca and is currently freelancing for Huffington Post Travel. He’s also written travel articles for the Toronto Star and Up! Magazine. Living in Toronto but raised in the small central Ontario village of Holstein, Rod is a country boy at heart who has never met a farmer’s market he didn’t like.